Photo Credit: Yishai Fleisher
Yishai Fleisher welcomes an Aliyah flight

A number of years ago, going up the steps to my house, I bumped into one of my neighbors. After exchanging pleasantries, I said that we just booked his shul’s hall for our son’s Bar-Mitzva. His instinctive reply still bothers me till this day: “Yes; the AMERICANS like our Hall“. Despite the conversation taking place in fluent Hebrew, living in the country for decades, it seems that, in his eyes, I was [still] one of the “Americans” (only).

Indeed, it seems that part and parcel of living in Israel is engaging in the constant categorization of its population: right versus left wingers, religious versus non-religious, and even within 1 category of religious Jews, we continue to sub-categorize them into ultra, heavy, light, national and more. While creating “order” in any “mix” is usually a worthy exercise, believe the damage outweighs the good in three ways.


Firstly, not only do we pray thrice a day to “ingather us together from the four corners of the earth” (blessing 10/19 blessings of the Amidah), it seems to be one of the bedrocks of the modern state of Israel, stating in its declaration of independence that “the State of Israel will be open to Jewish Aliya and the ingathering of exiles“. Constantly branding those that did both of the above as “outsiders”, by virtue of reminding them their origin, doesn’t exactly do wonders to promote these two principles.

Secondly, and especially in wake of the brutal October 7th attack, it’s rather obvious that our vicious enemies see no difference between the Jewish people living in Israel. In their eyes, we are one nation, despite different origins, various languages spoken at home, and diverse political views. It’s rather a pity that our enemies see us as ONE, while we constantly separate ourselves into many.

And finally, in these past few weeks, it’s become obvious that a good chunk of our most combat soilders of the IDF, those that put their lives on the line for the welfare of Israel and its citizens, are those who parents were not born in Israel [and at times, even they themselves], originating from various places around the globe. If they were “Israeli enough” to submit to the utmost (and sadly, at times, ultimate) sacrifice as an ISRAELI, why aren’t they “Israeli enough” to be called as such on the Homefront?

As we [hopefully soon] edge towards the end of this terrible war, beginning to think about “the day after“, believe one major change is called for; as we had the privilege of extreme unity during these weeks of fighting a mutual enemy, let’s try to continue it even after the fighting subsides, or at the very least, let’s stop referring to each other as…different.

Indeed, our sages already established, way back when, that we may all be children of Israel, but “just like their faces look different from one another, so too their views are diverse” (Tractate Berachot 58b). The truism of “Two Jews, Five opinions” will not fade with time, and just like our nation started with [no less then] 12 tribes, so too, in the times of our ultimate redemption, the land again will be divided into 12 parts (Yechezkel 47/13), with each “tribe” practicing different customs and lifestyles. In a word, they might all pray to G-d, but there are at least 12 ways to daven (Magen Avraham, Introduction to OC 68).

But in place of turning this beautiful & multi-colored mosaic into a divisive reality, let’s celebrate our inner-diverseness! Let’s be happy we are all part of the SAME “picture frame”, with a mutual fate and destiny, despite the picture being comprised of different elements, shapes, and yes-languages. Let’s insure that only Haman, our ancient arch-enemy of the Purim story, will see us as a “nation, dispersed and divided” (Ester 3/8)! In place of it, let’s be a nation that all will say ” Who is she that shines through like the dawn, Beautiful as the moon, Radiant as the sun” (Song of Songs 6/10), upon which our sages comment (Bamidbar Raba, Bamidbar 2) that the nations of the world are enthralled that there could be ONE nation (all encamped in the same encampment in the desert), yet with different “flags” for each tribe, or in contemporary terms, ONE nation, yet one that speaks different LANGUAGES within them.

Despite both of us standing on steps during the interaction with my neighbor, (hardly a place to engage in prolonged conversation and debate), I just couldn’t hold back the following response: “David (pseudonym); I finished elementary and high school in Israel, I both served in the army, got my degree as well as my ordination too in Israel, and lived in Israel for the majority of my years on earth. So please tell me David; WHEN DO I BECOME AN ISRAELI?!”

Let’s hope that in the aftermath of this terrible war, we can all establish that we are all…Israeli.


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Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein, former Rabbi of the Beth Israel synagogue of Halifax, and former director of training and placement at Ohr Torah Stone, is the director of North America of the Tzohar Rabbinic organization. An experienced rabbi, writer and popular lecturer in Israel and around the world, he is the author of Daven Your Age (2013), Beyond Routine (2018), Murmurings of a Minyaner (2021), co-editor of Machzor Vechai Bahem (OTS 2020 and 2021), and has over 1,000 recorded classes online in both Hebrew and English.